19 Apr

Zimbabwe’s Election Most Important in a Generation, Biti Says

Zimbabwe’s elections scheduled to take place this year will be the most important in a generation and critical to restoring democracy and economic growth in the southern African nation that has been dominated by one party since independence in 1980, opposition politician Tendai Biti said.

Zimbabwe has been an international pariah since a violent election and land-reform program in 2000 resulted in the imposition of sanctions by Western nations, caused an economic collapse and prompted the emigration of millions of citizens. A change in leadership in November that was engineered by the military is deterring some investors from returning.

“It is the most important election of our lifetime because it has to answer the question of legitimacy,” Biti said in an interview in Bloomberg’s Johannesburg office on Wednesday as Zimbabwe celebrated its national independence day. “The quality of this election, the substantive content and outcome of the election are going to be key.”

Zimbabwe is required by its constitution to hold general and presidential elections by Aug. 22. The vote will be the first without Robert Mugabe since 1980. Mugabe, 94, stepped down as president in November after the military temporarily took control of the country.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75-year-old former intelligence chief who replaced Mugabe, has been nominated by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front as its presidential candidate.

Six opposition parties have formed an alliance with the biggest group, the Movement for Democratic Change. Zimbabwe’s main opposition figure and MDC founder, Morgan Tsvangirai, died of cancer in February. Nelson Chamisa, a 39-year-old lawyer, will run as the coalition candidate.

Biti said the opposition’s prospects for the elections are good, partly because 60 percent of the 5.3 million registered voters are between 18 and 40 and have little memory of the liberation war that shaped the ruling party’s generation. Chamisa’s youth will help, he said.

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